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Hypoxia means the lack of oxygen to any bodily tissue or the brain. Hypoxia can be caused by several different affects such as the insufficient supply of oxygen, inadequate transportation of oxygen to the body's tissues.

Hypoxia can be very dangerous to pilots, if any reduction in metal function occurs, and can be life-threatening. Pilots need to be aware of the types of hypoxias, there cause, and their symptoms.

Hypoxic Hypoxia:

Hypoxic hypoxia is insufficient or not enough oxygen to the whole body. A common cause is the partial pressure of oxygen at higher altitudes. As an aircraft ascends there are few air molecules available at the pressure required, these results in the body being unable to inhale in enough oxygen.

Hypemic Hypoxia:

Hypemic means that there is not enough blood. This happens when the blood in the body is unable to transport enough oxygen to the cells in the body or the brain. This can happen due to a few different factors, such as: a blood disease like anemia or from severe bleeding, as well as donating blood.

One of the most common forms of hypemic hypoxia is from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Stagnant Hypoxia:

Stagnant basically not flowing or moving. The oxygen enriched blood in the lungs is flowing to the bodies’ tissues or brain. An example of stagnant hypoxia is when your arm or leg goes to sleep, because the blood flow was stopped.

Stagnant Hypoxia can occur during rapid acceleration of gravity or pulling G-forces (G’s). When a pilot (fighter pilots) is pulling G’s, the blood in the body is forced to the lower extremities and is unable to flow to the brain, causing a pilot to pass out.

Histotoxic Hypoxia:

“Histo” means tissues or cells and “toxic” means poisonous. This type of hypoxia is caused by the tissues or the brain rejecting the oxygen, due to the use of alcohol or drugs, (in the case of aviation, proscription drugs). It is very important that pilots avoid alcohol and or any proscription drugs prior to flight.

Hypoxia Symptoms:

Symptoms of hypoxia very with each individual, commons symptoms are:

  • Cyanosis or the bluing of fingernails or fingertips and lips.

  • Headaches

  • Vision impairment

  • Impaired judgment

  • Drowsiness

  • Lightheaded or dizziness

  • Numbness, tingling in fingers and toes.

Types of Corrective Actions:

  • Descend to a lower altitude.

  • Use approved aviation oxygen mask.


The symptoms of hypoxia, and how to treat it.


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